Work-related interventions and alliances between healthcare institutions and companies that aim to support employees with common mental disorders (CMD) returning to work are still quite rare in Germany. The present study examines a small sample of existing alliances and interventions with the aim to describe their cooperation forms and treatment approaches, to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and thus to provide guidance for their further development and dissemination.
Five alliances/interventions were selected on the basis of a web search. Subsequently 11 group discussions and 17 qualitative interviews with involved health care professionals and occupational stakeholders (n=44) as well as employees with CMD (n=17) were conducted and evaluated by documentary method and qualitative content analysis.
The examined interventions follow either a person oriented self-management or a systemic case management approach. The self-management approach focusses on what has to be done by the person him-/herself to get back to work (focus on individual adaption). The systemic approach additionally asks for workplace adaption. Which approach is chosen, depends inter alia on the involved actors’ preconscious frames of orientation, i. e. their assumptions regarding the modifiability of work-related risk factors. The main strength of the self-management approach lies in its ability to reinforce self-care, its main shortcoming in the one-sided focus on individual adaption and the risk of individualizing the disease, its causes and coverage. The systemic approach seems to be more sustainable through the combination of individual and workplace adaptions. The challenge here is to find an appropriate balance between individual self-care and occupational health care.
The findings show how the RTW of employees with CMD can be supported by more collaborative and work-related interventions. However, they also reveal limits and barriers of existing interventions and therefore provide useful hints for their further development and dissemination.
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